Pet therapy is a recognised way of calming and lifting the mood of people living with dementia.
Dogs, birds of prey and donkeys have become popular visitors to care settings but residents at Queen Charlotte Nursing Home, in Chickerell, near Weymouth, have just discovered the therapeutic qualities of a far more exotic species alpacas.
The two VIP visitors, Marley and Sheldon, more associated with South America than the Dorset coast, were brought along by Karen Hume, who launched her “alpaca experience” business, Portland Alpacas, four years ago.
She said: “I am an animal lover and have always kept horses. A friend of mine suggested starting an alpaca walking business; I fell in love with the animals and after taking husbandry and shearing courses we started up, offering treks on Portland from Fancys Farm.
“The business has since diversified into lots of other events, from care home visits even to weddings.”
She said her 16 alpacas had gone through a careful training process to become accustomed to going in and outdoors, and to noise and groups of people.
“They are such calming animals and it is so rewarding seeing the effect they have on care home residents,” she said.
“It’s common to be told that a particular resident with dementia won’t take any notice. But once they start stroking the animals they want to carry on and take a real interest.”
Queen Charlotte manager Moira Stevens said: “The residents loved meeting the alpacas. It was wonderful seeing their faces light up with smiles.”
Find out more about Queen Charlotte nursing home